How to Use the Hand Tool in Photoshop

The Hand tool is a nifty tool in Photoshop that will speed up editing and make it a more enjoyable experience. The tool doesn’t make any edits to your project, but it does facilitate being able to see – which is a huge advantage. 

Hello! I’m Cara and I’m back with yet another helpful (I hope!) tutorial here on Photoshop Buzz. Today we’re going to look at how to use the hand tool in Photoshop. Let’s get started!

Note: I use the Windows version of Photoshop. If you are using a Mac, the workspace will look slightly different from the screenshots displayed here.

What is the Hand Tool Used for?

Most tools in Photoshop allow you to do something cool like change colors or add contrast or what have you. The Hand tool doesn’t do anything to your image per se, but it does make it easier to see your image.

It is most helpful when you zoom in on your image. Zooming in makes it easier for you to see when you’re trying to do precise work – like making a selection. Unfortunately, zooming in also cuts off parts of your image because it doesn’t all fit in your workspace. 

Now, you could just move your cursor in the direction you want to go. Photoshop will notice that you seem to want to see a different part of the image and you’ll notice the image starts to shift. 

For example, as I am trying to make a selection of this ice cream cone, I can’t see all of it. But when I get to the top of my workspace, the image starts to automatically move down as my cursor moves close to the top edge. 

This is great for small bumps, but it moves slowly and is impractical if you need to move a larger distance. I mean, you could sit there and wait for it to slowly shift over – or you could move it with the hand tool in 0.5 seconds and be done with it!

So let’s look at how to do that!

Finding the Hand Tool

Like your other tools, the Hand tool is located on the toolbar on the left. You’ll see it down there near the bottom. You can also press H on the keyboard to activate it. 

However, you will rarely need to access the tool this way. To make things super easy, you can pause whatever tool you’re currently using and activate the Hand tool at any time with the Space bar. 

For example, if I were using the Magnetic Lasso tool to make a selection and I hit the H key, nothing would happen. I’m in the middle of using the Magnetic Lasso tool and haven’t finished my selection so Photoshop won’t switch to a new tool.

However, if I hold the Space bar, Photoshop pauses the Magnetic Lasso and opens the Hand tool. I can click and drag my image quickly to a new position then release the Space bar and continue using the Magnetic Lasso as though nothing ever interrupted me. 

This trick works with all tools in Photoshop.

Using the Hand Tool

Using the Hand tool is pretty self-explanatory. When you see that your cursor has turned into a little hand, click and drag your image in the direction you want to go. Release the mouse once your image is in position. 

There are also a few buttons in the Options bar that are handy to know about. 

Check the Scroll All Windows box when you have multiple documents open in the workspace and want to scroll them all at the same time. 

The 100% button will immediately zoom your image to 100%. You’ll often use the Hand tool in concert with the Zoom tool. Remember you can use the Zoom shortcuts to move in and out more quickly. These are Ctrl + + or Command + + to zoom in and Ctrl + or Command +to zoom out. 

The Fit Screen button will jump the image to fit inside your workspace so that you can see every part of it at once. 

The Fill Screen button fills the workspace with your image. This will usually cut a little off the top and bottom or the sides if your image does not have the exact same aspect ratio as your workspace. 

Edit Like a Pro

And that’s about it! The Hand tool is easy to use and provides a simple, but very helpful function. You can’t do much if you can’t see what you’re working on! Curious to learn about other, more complicated tools in Photoshop? Check out how to use the Color Replacement tool here!

About Cara Koch
Cara fell in love with photography circa 2014 and has been exploring all corners of the imagery world ever since. When she felt limited by Lightroom, she dove headfirst into Photoshop to learn how to create the images she wanted.

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